Cooler Bobbleheads Prevail: Bobblehead Character Type and Impact on Attendance at Major League Baseball Games

Jeffrey Cisyk

Giveaways such as jerseys, caps, or bobbleheads are part of a host of promotions used to entice fans to purchase tickets and attend live events, particularly in sports. Bobbleheads have often been viewed as the bellwether giveaway in demand-side analytical studies as they are common across sport, league, and team and are viewed as highly prized collectable items. Empiricists typically code promotions as binary variables to measure the impact these additional perks have on attendance, yet each bobblehead event features a distinct figurine distinguished by several previously unexplored dimensions. Due to the nature of bobbleheads typically resembling real-life individuals, consumer sentiment toward the bobblehead’s namesake may drive or deter the demand for the giveaway. Using a novel dataset of descriptions of bobblehead giveaways, this study finds that demand for Major League Baseball games varies by a bobblehead’s character type, where the impact on attendance is greatest for bobbleheads featuring players and sportscasters, lowest for managers, and middling for mascots and other types. Evidence suggests that bobbleheads depicted in costumes or as characters of licensed brands lead to greater attendance than brandless bobbleheads, yet the gains observed from the average branded bobblehead game may not offset the additional costs associated with licensing agreements.